World

'Absurd': Anti-Israel group wins key designation from UN panel over US objections

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, (l.),  with Majed Al-Zeer, director-general of the Palestinian Return Centre. (UN Watch)

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, (l.), with Majed Al-Zeer, director-general of the Palestinian Return Centre. (UN Watch)

A pro-Palestinian group that denies Israel's right to exist and which critics say is a front for Hamas won key status from a UN panel, Israel said Monday, prompting angry diplomats from the Jewish state to lash out at nations that voted for the measure, including several with dubious human rights records.

The UN Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations, a 19-member panel that includes Iran, Pakistan, Sudan, Venezuela, Russia and China, granted “observer” status to the Palestinian Return Centre (PRC). The designation allows the group to acquire official UN badges, full access to UN facilities and to participate in debates in New York, Geneva and Vienna.

"According to this script, one day we may find Hezbollah sitting at the Security Council and ISIS voting at the Human Rights Council," said Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Ron Prosor. "This is the peak season for the UN’s Theatre of the Absurd."

The U.S., Israel and Uruguay voted against the measure, while India, Russia and Greece abstained.

The UK-based PRC, which was established in 1996, was declared illegal in Israel in 2010 because of alleged ties to Hamas. A decree signed by then-Defense Minister Ehud Barak determined the PRC operates as a wing of Hamas in Europe, promoting the officially designated terrorist group’s agenda while maintaining direct contact with other Hamas senior officials, including its leaders in Damascus.

The PRC claims its mission is to offer “expert advice to various actors and agencies on the question of Palestinian Refugees within the context of the Nakba - The catastrophe following the forced displacement of Palestinians in 1948.”

UN Watch claims the group has regularly hosted Palestinian officials, including Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, at its annual conferences and has strong ties to top Hamas officials.

“Despite its pose as pro-Palestinian human rights group, the PRC is one of the few Palestinian advocacy groups to have been banned by Israel, on account of its deep entanglement with top leaders of the Hamas terrorist organization based in Gaza and abroad,” UN Watch said in a news release.

PRC’s alleged ties to Hamas were detailed in an 80-page report by the Israeli-based research institute Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center. The study, which included photos of PRC leaders with Hamas officials, called the PRC a propaganda arm of Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood.

“Its foundation was based on rejection of the Oslo Accords, a strong denial of the right of the State of Israel to exist and the concept of the "right" of the Palestinian refugees and their descendants to return to the places abandoned in 1948, all to be used as tools to fight Israel and the peace process,” the report said.